In Colorado Springs, wildlife is everywhere. For the best viewing, head to a nearby park. In town, Cheyenne Mountain State Park brims with coyotes, red foxes, and 100 species of birds. Further afield, visitors to Mueller State Park should watch for elk, black bears, hawks, and mule deer and Pike National Forest has three designated wilderness areas.
On the northwestern edge of town, Garden of the Gods erupts orange and white from the juniper-laden foothills. Paved walking paths wind among the sandstone cliffs, spires, and domes, making independent exploration accessible. For a more education-oriented approach, rangers lead free nature walks twice daily.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Anasazi ruins dating back 800 to 1,000 years, consist of 40 rooms that were relocated from McElmo Canyon, near southwestern Colorado's Mesa Verde, in the early twentieth century. Constructed of sandstone, mortar and wooden beams, and built into the cliffs, these ancient structures allowed residents to continue farming atop the ridges.
Team USA's flagship training center takes advantage of Colorado Springs' elevation to get athletes fit leading up to the Olympics and other international events. The Olympic Training Center is the national headquarters for USA swimming and USA shooting and houses training facilities for seven additional sports. Tours operate year-round and include a video and walking tour of the complex.
Best Day Trip
Just over an hour out of town, multi-colored cliffs soar above the rush of the Arkansas River. Adrenaline junkies can zip line or walk one of the world's highest suspension bridges at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, or try whitewater rafting and mountain biking the wilds below. Outdoor enthusiasts with tamer tendencies will find hiking, fishing, and even a local winery.
Off the Beaten Path
Ivywild School is the result of a mixed-use urban renewal project in Colorado Springs' oldest working class neighborhood. The 1916 school building now houses community, education, and retail spaces, from bars and coffee shops to a dedicated performance venue. Highlights for visitors include Bristol Brewing Company, the Old School Bakery, and Yobel Market.
Most Iconic Place
Pikes Peak's purple majesty inspired the poem and song "America the Beautiful" 125 years ago. Now, summiting the 14,115-foot mountain is an iconic Colorado Springs experience that anybody can do. Athletic types can hike strenuous 13.5-mile Barr Trail or book through an outfitter to shuttle up and cycle 19 miles down. Those who prefer leisurely vacations can drive a paved but winding road to the top.
The notoriety and popularity of the Manitou Incline says something special about Colorado Springs residents. Rated extreme, the mile-long climb consisting of 2,744 steps made of railroad ties follows old tracks at an average incline of 41 percent. Fitness junkies, step right up, but don't forget; the air is thinner up here.
Neighborhood to Explore
The gateway to Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs is packed with history, museums, quirky shops, and art galleries. Stop into Miramont Castle, built in 1895 for French-Catholic priest Father Jean Baptiste Francolon, for high tea and a history lesson, or peruse Commonwheel Artists Co-op to check out an array of work by roughly 30 local artists.
The Third Wave coffee craze is alive and well in Colorado Springs, with independent, quality-focused cafes and roasters scattered throughout town. The Principal's Office at Ivywild serves seasonal coffee—harvested within six months—that can be traced back to favorite growers. Just east of Downtown, Switchback Coffee's brews showcase thoughtfully sourced beans and in-house roasting.